Longevity is a subjective concept in hip-hop nowadays, and based solely on the innumerable, watered-down offerings on the shelf at the record store, any artist who releases two decent albums can very loosely be said to have achieved permanence. There are still a few rappers who have truly been in the game for more than ten years, and Keith Murray steps back into the public eye with Rap-Murr-Phobia. Just as Murray has passed in and out of the legal system, so too does Rap-Murr-Phobia fluctuate in quality. Although produced by the accredited Erick Sermon, Murray’s usually clever flow and lyrical prowess is sporadic. While Murray’s earlier work is considered classic by many connoisseurs, Rap-Murr-Phobia is lacking the consistency that garnered that merit.
Sermon’s production is good overall, and Murray’s excessive profanity and references to violence are what keeps the album as a whole from being the monochromatic. Three of the 16 tracks are skits, and such thin content is disappointing from Murray. “Hustle On” is the best track on the CD; superb both for the high quality beat produced by Sermon and for the story-like recital of Murray’s rapping. While the first half of the CD features only one rhyming guest spot by fellow Def Squad members Redman and Sermon, the second half features members of Murray’s Legion of Doom crew on almost every track. “What It Is,” featuring Method Man in classic form and 50 Grand, is another standout on Rap-Murr-Phobia.
By William Pitcher